Are Your Office Cleaning Products Making Your Business Unsafe?
It may sound crazy, but if you take a look under your sink, chances are you’ll find that the number to the poison control center is on every bottle. Many even seemingly harmless products advise that they only be used in well-ventilated rooms or while using masks and gloves. Sure, they may keep our homes and offices sparkling clean and may disinfect unwanted spills and stains, but to say that they’re safe for you or everyone in the premise is stretching the truth just a bit.
Repercussions on Personal Health
Most devastatingly, the toxicity of these products have a huge health repercussion for anyone who uses them or is around them. They lower indoor air quality while upping the indoor air pollution of your office space, if ingested, they’re poisonous, and can be very harmful when inhaled or even just touched! In just one year alone, cleaning products made up almost 10% of all toxic exposures that were reported to the Poison Control Center.
Though not all cleaning products cause serious issues, many cause some form of negative reaction. From respiratory or skin irritation to watery eyes, and even chemical burns, to more serious and longterm effects like several types of cancer.
Combining these chemicals can lead to even more ghastly results. For example, combining ammonia and chlorine bleach can create chloramine gases, while acids and chlorine combined will create toxic chlorine gasses.
Alarmingly, a recent study found that even your basic air freshener may be causing you some serious problems. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health found that a whopping 1/3 of the ingredients that go into the mystery concoction of “fragrance” are toxic.
The Environmental Impact
From disinfectants and detergents showing up in 66 – 69% of tested streams in a governmental study to chemicals and containers that harm the environment and refuse to break down, household cleaners do just as much damage to your surroundings as they do to your body – if not more. The chemicals that make their way from water treatment plants to streams and rivers threatens not just aquatic plants, but the life of aquatic creatures such as fish.
While no type of plastic is necessarily good for the environment, some are certainly easier to process in recycling plants than others. HDPE and PETE plastics are both generally accepted at most recycling plants. PVC, however, is made with cancer-causing chemicals. These chemicals, when incinerated, create a very potent carcinogen, known as dioxin.
What Can Be Done
When it comes to cleaning your office or work space, sometimes less is better. Using cleaners with few, environmentally friendly ingredients and that come in biodegradable packaging (such as the cardboard boxes that borax comes in). You can also make your own, healthier cleaning agents using ingredients from home. Oftentimes a little borax, lemon or orange, vinegar, baking soda, soap and water (and a bit of elbow grease and a scrubber!) can take care of all your cleaning needs.
For laundry detergent, check for warnings on the labels. Use nontoxic brands that don’t require warning or caution labels. Also, check for claims that the products are “biodegradable” within a certain timeframe rather than just a vague statement.
If you’re lucky enough to find products that list out their ingredients, choose ones that have plant-based ingredients rather than ones that use ingredients that are petroleum-based. And definitely stay away from products that have “poison” or “danger” hazard warnings.
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